kyoto kiyomizu dera 212191

Kiyomizu-dera Temple with blazing maple leaves – A must-see in Japan

Kiyomizu-dera Temple is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto, Japan. Located in the Higashiyama district of the historic city of Kyoto, the temple offers everything you want in a Kyoto experience with impressive temple architecture, quaint shops selling local handicrafts, spectacular views, sacred water and the possibility of finding true love.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple with blazing maple leaves – A must-see in Japan

History of Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Japan

The Kiyomizu-dera temple is located on Mt. Otowa, part of the eastern hills on the outskirts of Kyoto. The temple belongs to the Buddhist Kita-Hosso sect and was founded in 778 CE by Enchin Shonin some 16 years before Heiankyo (the former name of Kyoto) was itself established as the new capital of Japan. Enchin Shonin was a priest from Nara, the capital of Japan from 710 to 784 CE, who claimed to have received a vision which directed him to the exact location of a spring, the Otowa spring which gives its name to the site. Even today, many visitors consider the waters of the spring to have magical properties and the three branches of it are each given a romantic association: health, longevity, and exam success. No wonder, then, that Kiyomizu is popular with both young and old, but if the reader visits in person and wishes to take the waters, remember that one should drink from one stream only, so choose wisely.

Niomon Gate, Kiyomizu-dera-Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Japan
Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Japan

In 798 CE, the military leader of Japan, Sakanoue Tamuramaro, embellished the site with a large hall which was reassembled from its former position in the palace of Emperor Kammu (r. 781-806 CE). Kammu had decided to leave his old capital of Nara because of the overly strong influence the Buddhist monasteries had on the government there, and it was for this reason that the emperor permitted the building of new temples at Heiankyo only on the city’s periphery. In any case, the southern monasteries continued to be influential and there was a particular and long-standing rivalry between the Kofukuji temple of Nara and the Kiyomizu-dera, the latter being, at least officially, a subsidiary of the former.

The main pavilion of Kiyomizu- dera

Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Japan
Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Japan

The main pavilion, or Hondo, stands on a wooden platform mounted on stilts at a height of two meters above the precipice.

The panorama encompasses the city of Kyoto, magnified by the heights, the abundant vegetation in the area, it is especially beautiful in spring when the cherry blossoms or autumn, when the maple leaves glow.

Rest assured, rails protect the unwary from a fall that, according to legend, had many lovers succumb seeing a consecration of their passion. It was not, however, in most cases fatal, because the shrubbery broke their fall.

The temple of “PURE WATER”

At the end of the main building is a great opportunity for lonely souls in search of true love. The Jishu shrine has two stones separated by eighteen meters. It is said that if a person manages to travel the distance with his/her eyes closed, the chances of finding your soulmate are greatly increased. If successful, but guided by the voice of a third person, you will need an intermediary to find this soulmate. Many young people often try desperately to complete this task!

Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Japan
Kiyomizu-dera Temple with blazing maple leaves

The final stage of the Kiyomizu tour the place where the temple earned its name. The Otowa waterfall at the bottom of the stilted terrace comes only after walking down a flight of stairs. It alone attracts a swarm of tourists visiting the temple. Its sacred water is reputed to have healing properties and good fortune. Divided into three streams of water, it may be drunk through a long, metal ladle, sterilized by UV light. Each stream has a different associated virtue. One brings academic success, another longevity and the last, success in love.

Upon completion of this tour, for those who wish to pursue an adventurous experience, a path runs through the woods to reach the three-story pagoda Koyasu visible from the platform, popular with mothers as it is known to help facilitate childbirth.

How to Get to Kiyomizu-dera

The best way to get to Kiyomizu-dera from Kyoto Station is taking the number 100 or 206 Bus at Kyoto Ekimae Bus Stop, just in the north exit of Tokyo Station. The bus ride is about 15 minutes (4 stops, 230 yen) to Goyo-zaka Bus Stop. From there, it is a 10 minute walk to Kiyomizu-dera temple.